Who will pick the fruit now? DeSantis’ anti-immigration lab is up and running in Florida

It’s two in the afternoon in the agricultural fields at Homestead, an arboretum and orchard in South Florida. The thermometer shows a temperature of 34 degrees, and a crew of four undocumented seasonal workers have been planting beans since dawn. One of them says his name is Wilmer and he’s 28 years old. He also tells us that they came to “walk”. from Guatemala “across the Arizona desert” and living as nomads “from state to state” at the mercy of the crops.

They are among the few laborers to be seen these days in the fields of this agricultural district, the gateway to the west of An unusual wetland of the Everglades and a corridor area towards the South Keys. It has never been so empty, not because of the great heat; It’s because of Ron DeSantis’ new lawFlorida Governor. Besides his denunciation of the right to abortion, persecution of transgender people, and the fight against the progressive agenda he includes in his elusive favorite term, I wake upDeSantis turned his strong hand against immigration into a cover speech to get ranked as the GOP nominee for next year’s election. If he makes it to the White House, he promises to secure the border, end the wall with Mexico, and stop the “invasion.” He plans to declare a “national emergency”, militarize division hotspots, and put an end to the “asylum fallacy”.

Right now, he’s deployed his lab to Florida, a state with 772,000 illegal immigrants, according to Migration Policy Institute accounts (number between 10.5 and 12 million nationwide). Among other things, Regulation SB-1718 revokes a driver’s license for those without papers, which is quite a sentence in this part of the country; requires hospitals that accept Medicaid (the closest thing to Social Security) to inquire about patients’ legal status before offering assistance; makes transporting immigrants a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison; The law requires employers with more than 25 workers to use an app to certify their employees’ status, and sets out a $12m (€10.75m) clause for expelling those who reach the border to other, more lenient countries, which it calls “legal haven authorities”.

“The effect was seen immediately. From one day to the next, we noticed an exodus to other places,” explained Benjamin Perez, a Puerto Rican pastor and community leader, as he drove his black van Friday in Homestead. perez, defines himself as a “conservative”, He traveled to Washington and Tallahassee while the bill was pending in an attempt to get members of Parliament to understand that “the food crisis is a national crisis.” He wonders, “Who will pick the fruit now?” “The fields of tomatoes, mangoes, passion fruit and nurseries… there will be no one to work in them.”

A crew of undocumented Guatemalan seasonal workers plant beans at Homestead on Friday.

A walk through the center of this city 50 kilometers from Miami, with a growing population of 90,000, shows a deeper impact. At the barbershop, appointments went awry. The travel agency did a good job at first, when they sold many bus tickets to those who were leaving, but it was a “week without a single customer” in the office. And at La Michoacana, an ice cream parlor and social gathering place, “for a month nothing is the same again,” according to Sail Avila, the manager.

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In all of these places, Perez repeats the same message with a request that it be published: “On the day that 1718 came into effect, we met with the chief of police and other local authorities; they told us they were not here to ask for papers. So don’t be afraid, don’t stop going to the hospital or reporting to agents a hit-and-run for fear of arrest. Raiding on immigrants is none of your business,” But from ICE [siglas en inglés de la agencia de inmigración]and they do not provide.”

Panic to be caught

Most of them find it hard to believe. “People are panicking,” explains farmer and activist Antonia Catalan in Redland where her daughter Gabriela Ibarra and son-in-law own a plant nursery, the most extensive business in the field, supplied from horticultural companies and supermarkets across the country. Catalan is a reference for the undocumented from tens of kilometers around. A Mexican who arrived at the time of Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform in the 1980s, accompanied by her nine-month-old daughter, she was not intimidated by the penalties provided by the new law. He picks up migrants in his car when they ask for help making arrangements or escorts them to hospital if they need attention.

To show that fear has settled into the community, he makes two hands-free phone calls. The first question was answered by an older gentleman who had an agricultural company that had lost most of its employees and fled to other states in recent weeks. “Now we’re only eight, if things don’t change I’ll have to close forever in August,” says the man, before asking not to be named. The second is an undocumented woman with a 12-year-old son who suffers from chronic heart disease. The next day he went to a hospital in Miami and they asked him about the documents for the boy, who was born in the United States. You lost it that day when her wallet was stolen and now you don’t dare ask for it again for fear of the consequences.

Sitting next to her mother, whom she refers to as “Mrs. Antonia,” Gabriela Ibarra explains that the law “has sparked massive racism against people like us; they now look at us badly, thinking that if we were undocumented immigrants we would get them into trouble.” Ibarra also participates in the activity, In initiatives such as Qué calor! (sic), who seeks to advance a law that would force employers to give farmers “water, shade, and rest” (“we are human beings,” he says, “not slaves”), and drags his two daughters into the protests. A little girl, 12-year-old Kathy Camacho, is sad these days because she has lost many friends from school, whose parents left Florida after the new law.

Samuel Vilches Santiago, State Director of Business Organization American Business Immigration Coalition, He says 47% of agricultural jobs in Florida are performed by undocumented workers, which is the sector most affected by the new system. This is already affecting “tourism and construction”, an industry that in places like downtown Miami, which is loaded with construction cranes, is experiencing a real boom. We have an unemployment rate [2,6%] Lowest in Decades Out of every 100 jobs available, only 63 are available to find an applicant. And this law will not help improve that, rather it will exacerbate other problems such as the highest inflation in the country, or the crisis due to the lack of housing.”

A protester in Immokale, Florida
Albino Huabela Perez Jr., a 16-year-old student whose parents pick tomatoes, wears a “We feed you” portable crib, protesting against the new anti-immigration law, July 1 in Imukale.
Rebecca Blackwell (AP)

The consequences of this “labor shortage” are unpredictable and, according to Andrew Seeley, President of the Immigration Policy Institute, A nonpartisan organization based in Washington. Faced with other states, which are doing their best to attract workers, Florida seems to prefer scaring them away. A reform like that of DeSantis must be accompanied by a strengthening of the H2-A visa system [que permite el ingreso temporal por unos meses a trabajadores del campo, que después regresan a sus países]But I’m afraid it’s more of a political decision. It usually has a symbolic dimension, but in this case its economic implications cannot be ignored. It seems to me that it is subject to a calculation, that it seeks to send a message to the voters of the entire country. I suppose it will be popular with a portion of his Florida constituents, but I don’t think it will be popular with businessmen who are already suffering from a labor shortage,” he says.

Spanish reaction

There is no certainty about how this action will affect DeSantis’ campaign heading into the primary, which is not having its best moment; They separate him by more than 30 points from the party’s top pollster, Donald Trump, and analysts cite some of his more extreme policies on issues like abortion or education to explain why his image has not improved in opinion polls. In the election last November, in which he swept for re-election as governor, he drew 58% of the support of Hispanics. This has already made decisions against immigrants, How to pay public money to get a plane full of Venezuelans out of a Texas border crossing to the Democratic stronghold of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to protest the Joe Biden administration’s border policy. (Priest Perez explains this Latin support by resorting to an aphorism: “There is no wedge worse than the wedge of the tree itself”).

Naturally, immigration reform will not break the support of Colombian Carolina Castillo, who has been a Democrat for 28 years and, in May, became perhaps the most famous Republican convert in Florida. Castillo made it clear this week that he believes DeSantis has no choice “in light The historic disaster that Biden created on the borderHe attributes the exodus of immigrants after the law’s passage to the fact that “socialist organizations like the Florida Immigrant Coalition scare them into leaving,” while the new rule is “not designed for those who settled in Florida years ago, but for new arrivals.” “It’s like vandalism,” he concludes.

Patricia Andrade, Friday at the storage company as she prepares for her nationals in Doral, Florida.
Patricia Andrade, Friday at the storage company as she prepares for her nationals in Doral, Florida.Iker Secidos Garcia

She understands that DeSantis wanted to “weaponize the state so Florida doesn’t become Texas,” explains Patricia Andrade, founder in 2016 of Raíces Venezolanas, an organization that helps her recently arrived citizens claim asylum. “I hope the reform will at least stop companies that are dedicated to hiring irregulars and paying cash to do inhumane jobs,” he explained last Friday in the hallways of a storage room rental company in Doral (known as Doralzuela, due to the growing number of Venezuelans; 545,000 already nationwide).

Andrade, who said he has visited almost all of them critical points on the border with Mexico, I’ve rented 10 spaces in that building, neatly organized: children’s clothes in one, toys in another, a little crockery or jewelry… There, immigrants can spend their Fridays getting everything they need to start their new life for free while waiting for the 150 days to pass for a work permit. It is the first condition after the granting of the paper that allows them to remain in the country and to be summoned to appear before an immigration judge, sometimes after years.

Juan Carlos Calderón, pastor of the church Hope Center in Hallandale Beach, He was one of more than 1,000 evangelical pastors who signed a letter last month asking the governor not to pass SB-1718. He identifies himself as conservative, but is highly critical of al-Qaeda. It is believed that it will generate fear and racism. He insists that “one does not solve a national problem with a state law that upsets the balance of the distribution of immigrants throughout the country.” We ask [al gobernador] To make at least some exceptions to allow us to work with unregistered people. Imagine if we had to ask parishioners for identification to give them mass. Or that we can’t take care of a recently arrived immigrant after a harrowing journey. Mercy must be above the law. Where is God’s love?

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